6 January 2004
Isla Paraiso, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Good Morning Cruisers
In most popular anchorages or harbors the cruisers have organized daily VHF radio nets to provide information and enhance communication. The role of net controller is typically shared among those cruisers or business people fulfilling a sense of community service, promoting their products or services or by people trying to satisfy a theatrical ambition.
At the risk of offending the fine volunteers that make these VHF nets possible, it goes something like this:
"Good morning cruisers and please clear this frequency for the Puerto La Cruz radio net that will start in one minute".
"Well good morrrning cruisers it's a beeauutifuul day (drawing out each vowel in a proper British inflection or is it intonation) here in Puerto La Cruz, Monday the fifth day of January at GMT 1145 hours." Each controller personalizes the mundane script by adding tidbits of knowledge or lighthearted patter to make the net interesting. It is actually 7:45 AM but now we are reminded that many radio broadcast are scheduled at GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
"The Puerto La Cruz radio net is conducted on channel 72 an international ship to ship to ship, ship to shore frequency with the permission of the Port Captain and........", this introductory note is necessary since the channel being used is a working marine channel that the net will tie up for a good fifteen minutes. For the remainder of the day this frequency will act as a hailing channel for cruisers where boats contact one another and then move off to an alternative channel to conduct their business.
The first query on the net is about priorities or medical emergencies. Next the controller ask if their have been any security issues during the last 24 hours and finally the useless role call of all the marinas to see if they are holding mail or faxes for any boats. This throw back of bygone days is maintained to remind us how good it is to have e-mail.
"And who is it who will give us the weather on this fine day."
"This is Stanley on Nan-nu Nan-nu (a favorite boat name of mine)." The net controller didn't catch Stanley's name but then again most of us don't have proper names anymore, we are only recognized by our boat names i.e." I saw Moonbeam at the mall yesterday," not "I saw Jack and Lois from the boat Moonbeam".
"Good morning Mr. Weatherman." It is the first day for the new weatherman and he rose early this morning to access the internet and accumulated a goodly amount of information including sunrise, sunset, moon phase, barometric pressure, winds and waves at the virtual buoy, temperature in Fahrenheit and Centigrade, tropical waves, swells, water temperature and a host of satellite photos depicting cloud cover for the entire Caribbean basin. He reads his script with determination at a rapid pace without any extemporaneous remarks.
Everyone listening awaits in anticipation knowing it is bound to come..."Break break this is the sailing vessel Robin"....... ahh there it is, the tension is over. The new weatherman pays no attention to the interruption and in his nervousness continues until he reaches the end of his script, ".... and now back to the net". The weather is nice to know information while at the dock but no good mariner would rely on the morning forecast to plan a trip. It's necessary to visualize how weather patterns are evolving but it does remind everyone that there are winds and wave out beyond the break wall of Puerto La Cruz.
The net controller recognizes Carl on Robin. "Yes, first I want to thank Stanley for the fine job he did on the weather today but I wanted to know if the barometric pressure he gave at 1013 millibars was from the airport at Barcelona or was it a sea level reading. I ask because the three barometers aboard Robin read 1011." Talk about esoteric, any given barometric pressure provides little indication of future weather patterns. It is the change in that pressure that you attempt to interrupt. But Carl has to prove the point that he is the weather expert in the area. Robin has not left the harbor in over three years and here in lies the problem of becoming too familiar with the art of weather forecasting. Carl has made his point as Stanley admits that the pressure has been read off the MSN website for weather in Barcelona, Venezuela the nearest airport. And now Stanley wishes he had never volunteered for this duty.
But the fun is just beginning. "Are there any general announcements, social , business or otherwise."
"Break break, this is Dixie Bells." The call comes through in a Georgian twang that could only be perfected by being far from Georgia for a long time since people in Georgia haven't spoken with a thick accent like that for twenty years or more. "Don't ya'll ferget, dominos at the Bayyside Barbeecue Resturent this comin' Sundaay startin' at 1:30." This announcement is certain to reduce participation in the tournament since anyone who speaks English as a second language could only begin to decipher it, even our British friends will have difficulty. Dominions is a very popular sport for cruisers since it is about as athletic as we get and the indigenous population of most islands play it with a passion. Monday on the net the winners will be announced in the same accent.
Calls are now coming in form a variety of boats with announcements that include Sunday church services, shopping trips, restaurant trips, cocktail parties, reminders about community service projects along with local business announcing their goods and services.
And now in a resounding voice,. "Good morning boys and girls, I am Leo your taxi driver. If you need me you can call me on my cell phone at 0416.480.9028 or on channel 72. And everyone have a nice weekend." The rhythm and syntax are that of a Venezuelan speaking English. This announcement has been heard every morning since we have been here. Everyone in the cruising community knows Leo and his wife Rosalbo.
For a most reasonable 7000B's (and with the current exchange rate of 2700 that's a little over $2.00 USD) per hour, Leo will drive you all around the area, help with medical appointments for you or your dog, help find boat parts or repairs, take you to the discount shopping clubs, specialty shops and arrange for travel and airport pick-up. Leo will also watch your boat while you are gone and his wife Rosalbo will clean the inside of your boat or apartment, watch your pet, teach Venezuelan cooking and beginning Spanish all without the nuisance of knowing English. Both are great fun and a pleasure to have around.
Back to the net controller. "Treasures of the bilge, anyone who has something to sell, trade or give away, come now." At this point cruisers can offer for sale anything from the ridicules to the sublime. People offer anything from used shoes to 75 pound anchors. I sold our old dinghy motor over the net in St. Marten.
"Go ahead Hornblower."
In a sultry voice that sounds like it should be at the other end of a 900 telephone number, "This is Carolyn aboard Hornblower and we have a biggg selection of movies to trade if anyone is interested call Hornblolwer on channel 72 after the net." How Carolyn could be so breathless this early in the morning is beyond me.
The net controller recognizes Cloudburst with "Go".
"This is Bob aboard Cloudburst and I have a storm jib with a leach of 23 feet. It's in good shape and has many years of use left in it." Now Bob has made this announcement everyday for the last 45 days and if you could see the boat you would know why he still has the sail. An unrecognized voice comes across the airways, "Would someone please buy the damn sail". With that you would think Bob would get the hint but he won't and he'll be back tomorrow morning and every morning until he leaves for the next harbor and the next radio net.
The net also canvases the local cruisers for people traveling to other continents to carry flat stamped mail, boats departing or arriving who wish to give salutations and a few other categories. The net drags past 8:00 and the net controller puts an end to it by asking for any last announcements before closing.
For the rest of the day boats will hail other boats or local businesses on the net channel in English, French, German, Dutch, Dixie or Sultry and then they will agree on an alternative channel. Some boats will broadcast for a contact ten or fifteen times a day but most of us just monitor and wait for our boat name to be called. For some monitoring means more than waiting for your boat name to be called but rather listening in if the contact sounds interesting. It's better than an old time party line for those who want to use it that way. There is no click on the radio to indicate if anyone or how many people are listening in. Well it is a small community and there are no secretes .
We are leaving for Peru at the end of the week to visit Machu Picchu and other Inca archaeological sites.
"This net is now closed and and the channel is now available for regular traffic."